What Causes Weil's Disease?

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  • Written By: Dee S.
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2016
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Weil's disease, also known as leptospirosis or swamp fever, is a relatively rare disease. It is directly caused from the infection that occurs as the result of a type of bacteria called Leptospira interrogans. The disease can result if bacteria enter the body through the mouth, nose, or an open wound. This can occur when a person drinks, eats, or plays in or around contaminated water. Since the bacteria originate in rodent animals, such as rats and raccoons, the areas where these creatures frequent may be contaminated with the bacteria as well.

The only direct cause of Weil's disease is infection by the bacterium Leptospira interrogans. It is typically found in water that has been contaminated with the urine from rodents, such as rats, squirrels, raccoons, and mice. Most people become infected when they drink or swim in the contaminated water. The bacteria can enter through many areas of the body, such as an open skin wound, the mouth, the nose, and even the vagina.


Although the chance of contracting Weil's disease is lower in the United States and Europe than it is in other countries, such as India, it is still possible. City ponds and stagnant water easily harbor the bacteria, as they may be frequently visited by city rats. In addition, canals or rivers that move slowly are often contaminated. If water is located near an agricultural or farming area, it may increase the chances of contamination as well. Weil's disease is often contracted by people who work in contaminated farming waters, such as rice fields.

Since swimming or playing in contaminated water can cause Weil's disease, it is important to take precautions to prevent it. For example, a person fishing should wear rubber gloves, waterproof clothing, and goggles to prevent contaminated water from splashing in the mouth, the eyes, the nose, or open wounds. Also, people should think twice before they swim in a pond, canal, or other water sources. Generally, chlorine will kill bacteria that causes Weil's disease, so swimming in a treated pool is a safer option.

Since the bacteria that causes Weil's disease is emitted from the urine of rodents, it is best to stay away from areas where rodents frequent. For example, if a person stumbles upon a nest of mice, it generally is best to let professionals handle the infestation, or at the very least wear protective gear. Frequent hand washing is important as well, as is researching a body of water before swimming or playing in it.


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Post 3

@MikeMason-- That's right, leptospirosis in humans can be mistaken for other things.

I had Weil's disease last year after canoeing. I wasn't diagnosed as such, but I'm assuming that that's what it was. A couple of days after canoeing I got a fever, as well as a migraine and chills.

My doctor took a urine sample and saw that I had an infection. He said he didn't want to waste time trying to figure out which bacteria it might be. So he gave me a wide spectrum antibiotic.

I responded well to the antibiotic and my symptoms slowly disappeared. I'm so glad I went to see my doctor in time. I can't believe that this disease can result in meningitis and even kidney failure if it isn't treated.

Post 2
@ZipLine-- I remember reading about that too. His name was Andy Holmes, I believe. I think he died because he wasn't diagnosed with it right away. I've heard that Weil's disease can mimic flu like symptoms. And since most people don't know about the disease, it doesn't get diagnosed as quickly as it could.

I do a lot of fishing in rivers and lakes with my friends too. But I'm aware of the dangers and always wear protective clothing. And I never swim in still water.

Post 1

Didn't a British Olympic gold medalist die from this disease a couple of years ago? I remember reading about it in the news. It was so sad.

As rare as it is, this disease must hit athletes involved in water sports a lot. Especially if they swim in fresh waters.

There is a lake near where I live and the kids in the area go there for swimming in the summer. People also fish there year-round. I know the lake is not treated with anything and mice and rats can definitely be found in the fields in the area. I wouldn't be surprised if the lake has the Weil's disease bacteria. I just hope no one gets infected with it.

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